NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Host Drake speaks on stage during the 2017 NBA Awards Live On TNT on June 26, 2017 in New York City. 27111_001 (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for TNT )

Rapper Drake Throws a Re-Bar Mitzvah Party on His 31st Birthday

Could the world’s hottest  rapper be any more of a nice Jewish boy?

According to the New York Post, Drake’s 31st birthday party on Oct. 23 was themed “Aubrey’s re-bar mitzvah.” The Jewish rapper’s real name is Aubrey Drake Graham — and 31, in case you didn’t realize, is the reverse of 13, the age at which Jewish law says boys become men.

Drake did have a bar mitzvah at the age of a 13, telling Digital Spy in 2012, “We kinda just did it in the basement of an Italian restaurant, which I guess is kinda like a faux pas.”

“I told myself that if I ever got rich, I’d throw myself a re-bar mitzvah,” Drake continued.

After an intimate rooftop dinner with friends and family at Catch LA, Drake relocated to the nightclub Poppy in West Hollywood, which was re-named as Papi for the night as a reference to Drake’s “Champagne Papi” moniker. There he was feted by a who’s who of celebrity friends, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Tobey Maguire, as well as football star Odell Beckham Jr.

“I told myself that if I ever got rich, I’d throw myself a re-bar mitzvah.” — Drake

The party was thoroughly bar mitzvah-themed, from the photo booth to the Dippin’ Dots ice cream pellets for guests to enjoy. Pizza also was served in boxes that read “Papi’s Pizzeria.”

To underscore the theme, Drake posted an image of his “bar mitzvah board” — seemingly original from 1999 —  to Instagram. It featured a collage of Drake baby pictures.

Drake’s bar mitzvah board on Instagram

Adding to the glitz and glamour of the party were a marching band, sparklers and fine wine, according to “Entertainment Tonight.” Attendees, dressed in semi-formal attire, toasted Drake with red Solo cups with his name on them and sang “Happy Birthday.” Drake’s father, Dennis Graham, gave a speech on how proud he was of his son and performed numerous songs for him, according to

Throughout the party, Drake acted as a bartender, disc jockey and master of ceremonies.

Drake has an African-American father and Jewish mother. He attended a Jewish day school in Toronto and parodied his bar mitzvah while hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 2014.

The rapper has a song titled “Bar Mitzvah in 1999,” which has lyrics that include “I’m Black and Jewish / Don’t be so foolish / I’m Black and Jewish / It’s a mitzvah.”

The rapper’s 2016 album “Views” and his 2017 follow-up “More Life” both broke Spotify streaming records and sold millions of copies around the world.

Jensen Karp survives to write his own ending

When Jensen Karp was 29 years old, his doctor discovered three white spots in his brain. He was informed that these tumors could not be removed, and to start thinking about the possibility of dying. 

“They told me to get all my things in line, and to prepare my tombstone,” Karp said.  

The first thing he decided was that he needed to tell his story, an unbelievable tale that comes down to this: “When I was 19 years old, I was a rapper and had a million-dollar record deal.” 

The full story, written after Karp’s eventual recovery — the tumors never grew larger and are no longer a health threat — is recounted in his recently released memoir, “Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other True Stories From a White Rapper Who Almost Made it Big.”

The book, which came out June 7, details Karp’s love of rap music when he was growing up in Woodland Hills. He first performed at a friend’s bar mitzvah when he was 12, and wrote a song called “Killin’ at the Playground.” From there, he performed in rap battles at local parties throughout his teenage years.

Jensen Karp with Kanye West. Photo courtesy of Jensen Karp

On a whim one day, Karp phoned into “Roll Call,” a daily rap battle on Power 106 FM. After going up against another rapper, listeners voted him as the winner. The DJs asked his name, and he said, on the spot, “Hot Karl.” 

Returning to the show again and again, he eventually made 43 appearances. (The previous record held for winning “Roll Call” was 10 times.)

“As Hot Karl, I mostly made jokes in my raps,” he said. “I was a rapper who was always kidding. Though I was serious about the art form, I had punch lines.”

Pretty soon, the industry became aware of Karp, a white, Jewish kid from the suburbs, and Interscope gave him a $1 million record deal. He recorded his debut album, “Your Housekeeper Hates You,” with the label, and proceeded to collaborate and commingle with artists such as Mya, Fabolous, Redman, and Kanye West.

West and Karp became friends over the course of a year, going to movies and eating out together. In one chapter, Karp writes about how West was a determined young producer who wasn’t taken seriously. He calls it “a real-life insight into a megastar when he was still living with his mother. There aren’t tons of Kanye stories about ‘I knew this guy when.’ I tell the truth. We were close.” 

Although Karp worked hard on his debut album, eventually, Interscope told him it wasn’t going to release it because of scheduling conflicts. This was at about the time that Eminem — also on the label — was becoming a household name. It turned out that there wasn’t enough room in the game for two white rappers, Karp said.

Karp was devastated. He continued to rap for a while, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore. “It was [painful] at times to write this book,” he said. “It shows everything I went through.”

Eventually, Karp quit rapping. He had majored in writing at USC, and decided to see where that path would take him. When a writing job for “WWE Raw” opened up, he was hired by the pro-wrestling/sports entertainment program, and his comedy writing career blossomed from there.  

Karp, now in his mid-30s, works for TV and awards shows these days, and he’s appeared on the web series “Burning Love” and the VH1 show “Barely Famous.” When he’s not writing, Karp runs Gallery1988, which has two locations on Melrose Avenue and showcases pop culture art. It’s been open since 2003 and features four to five group shows per year. 

He’s not completely done with rap, though. A few years ago, he wrote a halftime song for the his favorite basketball team, the L.A. Clippers, called “Where You At.” He’s been writing one new rap line per day, and will compose raps for comedians — including one he came up with for the MTV Movie Awards titled, “Leo Got F—-d by a Bear” (referring to Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “The Revenant”). It was performed by hosts Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and ended up going viral in April. 

Although rap will always be a part of Karp, he’s not interested in getting back into it full time. 

“Being 36, there aren’t many words that rhyme with ‘mortgage,’ ” he said. “What do you talk about? I should have children, not a mixtape. Rap is a kids’ game. I’m just happy how I wrote my own ending.”

Rap for Tu B’Shevat

About the song:

Jewish Rappers could occasionally hit all the holidays that are known, but not many might know of Tu B'Shevat , which is the new year of Trees. Over a funky fresh hip hop beat produced by Kentron da Mastadon, Kosha Dillz and Ari Lesser go back 'n' forth about a topic that is more smokeable for hip hop rather than planted, and can still rock the party with positive vibes. Catch Kosha Dillz on Vans Warped Tour this summer with Riff Raff.

A Rosh Hashanah rap

Fifty Seven Seventy Five  / is not the combo of my locker

It’s also not the age of my Mother to Father 

Not the goals of Brazil vs. German World Cup soccer

It is the year of Israel/ kiss the land upon

when I El-Al’ed her

Sweet new year / for my future Jewish lovely

That “high holiday” time of month / after my

birthday money

It resonates from Qiryat Tivon to Pico / land

of the sunny

A couple l’chaims later / everything is smiles

and so funny.


The first of Tishrei / remembers Adam and Eve

The shofar blows / honey cake ’n’ apples and treats

Confused so great / till my tummy aches

On Yom Kippur I’ll fast / and lose all that weight


A holiday we CAN celebrate / even if it’s a

little something

If we can’t make it to shul / we eat sweet

and take a hike up Runyon

We fight with our families / and they pretend

it’s a discussion

We embrace carbohydrates / because that’s “what’s in”


We are Ashkenazi, Persian, Sephardic, Ladino, Mizrahi

… and … Russian.


We make it home / for least one night of the two

We bring home a girl  / that our Mother will not like

(and it’s true)


We travel across the nation /  to see them for

once chillin’

And if things are all wrong / we pretend to not act

like some victim

Rosh Hashanah / head of the new year 

Yom Kippur cleanses us from our old fears 

No magic ball drops along with cone hats / Times Square / month-old beers 

We are just rejoicing because Moshiach is almost here 🙂

We recall great shows like Friends …

Costanza and Cheers


This year, Less Manishewitz — more “Man I Schivtz”

Less 24-hour partying — more 24-hour fitness

More calling our brothers and sisters about things

that matter

And matter of fact … more minding our own business

(especially as a Jewish rapper/actor)

Less lashon hara / if we fight / more making up 

Less shopping at Sephora /more creating trust

Pursue my goals / stick to a plan 

12 weeks at a time / 4 times as much money this year

if I can


Throwing bread crumbs / in a river  

Say good-bye and repent / for Joan Rivers

This is different from Passover 

These herbs are not bitter


As I mention before / it’s time to set our goals

If we are in business / lets hope more items are sold

Acknowledge more Jews / be passionate with more soul

And let’s shack up already / It’s 5775 /

and we are getting old


For the end of My rap

Let me give a shout out to my future wife/  OY VEY!

I promise to swipe right /  say OK!  / and be Awkward…

in a Good Way

I’ll message you first / and I’ll pay for the Bill.

Happy 5775 LA  / Sincerely 

The best Jewish rapper in Koreatown @koshadillz

Follow Rami Even-Esh on Twitter @koshadillz; for more, go to

Can Drake reinvent the Toronto Raptors à la Jay-Z?

The Toronto Raptors are gearing up for a makeover from none other than Drake, the city’s very own Jewish rap sensation.

We know, you’re probably wondering if it’s even possible to infuse cool into a losing team with a tougher, redder Barney for a mascot. But according to the Toronto Star, the execs behind it all are modeling the re-branding on another very successful rapper-basketball joint venture: Jay-Z and the Brooklyn Nets.

“Hip hop’s cool uncle took an (incredibly tiny) ownership position in exchange for polishing the shield,” the Toronto Star says of Jay-Z. “He didn’t have to do much. Switch from Yankees to Nets ball-caps. Show up to a few games. Whisper in the ears of a few guys who grew up on The Blueprint.  The result is an almost instant contender, the sort of marquee brand future hall of famers want to be associated with.”

Now it’s Drake’s turn. In addition to hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star game, the self-described “Raptors fan to the death,” will launch a team-based clothing line and consult on the redesign of the their image for the 20th anniversary of the franchise in the 2014-2015 season.

The hope is that Toronto will soon become a city NBA players are willing to go to. And that Drake does something with that dinosaur.

Watch: Snoop Lion helps Larry King become ‘first’ Jewish rapper

CNN star Larry King wants to become the first ever Jewish rapper, and he’s enlisted the assistance of none other than rhyming veteran Snoop Dogg Lion.

While Snoop didn’t break the news to King that artists like the Beastie Boys and Drake have already beaten him to it, he did do a pretty good job of coaching the 79 year old.

During a visit to Snoop’s Tha Double Gangsta Hood News Network, King was quizzed by the joint-toting rapper on his interests. Then the two launched into a rap about peanut butter, baseball, and dinner.

“Mazel tov Mr. King, let your voice and legacy continue to ring,” Snoop said, closing out the duet.

King’s no Jerry Lewis or anything, but you have to give the guy an A for effort.

(Some of video NSFW)

In addition to brightening our morning, this collaboration has also made us wonder, what’s up with all of the recent love between famous Jewish guys over 50 and rap stars?

Drake wins first Grammy

The Jewish Canadian singer Drake won a Grammy Award, his first, for Rap Album of the Year.

Also, the indie pop band fun. won Song of the Year with “We Are Young” and Best New Artist at the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Its lead singer, Jack Antonoff, is Jewish, and he thanked all the band's fans after fun. won in the latter category.

“We've been touring for 12 years and we haven't made money for a very long time,” he told the crowd, extending a shout-out to girlfriend Lena Dunham.

For Drake, his album “Take Care” brought him the Grammy before the televised portion of the show began. He beat out Lupe Fiasco, Nas, The Roots and Rick Ross.

Drake had been nominated 10 times before breaking through this year. He also was nominated for Best Rap Performance for his song “HYFR” and Best Rap song for “The Motto.”

Fun. also performed at the Grammys, playing its hit “Carry On” during a staged indoor rainstorm at the Staples Center.

In his introduction of the group, actor Neil Patrick Harris said, “As legendary gangsta rap icon Katharine Hepburn once said, 'If you obey all the rules, you don’t have any fun.' “

Other notable Grammy winners were the English folk band Mumford & Sons, who won Album of the Year for “Babel”; Gotye, whose hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” won for Record of the Year; and Adele, who won her seventh Grammy for her live performance of “Set Fire to the Rain.”

French Rapper Booba ‘Cyber-lynched’ for Mentioning Shoah

Dozens of anti-Semitic messages were left on the Facebook page of the popular French rapper Booba for vowing in a new song to avenge the victims of the Holocaust.

Booba, the son of a Muslim father from Senegal, raps in a song titled “Master Yoda” that was posted Feb. 2 on his Facebook page, “We’ll avenge like victims of slavery and the Shoah.”

Among the 4,340 comments left on his post were comments denying the Holocaust and calling for a new genocide against the Jewish people, in violation of French law on hate speech. Some comments used pejoratives against Booba, the stage name of 36-year-old Eli Yaffa, for mentioning the Holocaust.

A user identified as John Ken’Nabii wrote, “F**k the Shoah, invented by Zionists to legitimize Israel.” And from another user, Bassim Abir: “F**k your mother, you and the Shoah, we piss on all the Arabs that listen to you.”

JSS News, a French Jewish news site, termed the statements “cyber-lynching.”

Dozens of comments contained the phrase “shoananas,” a combination of the Hebrew name for the Holocaust with the French word for pineapple. Coined by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne, it is used as a code word for denying the Holocaust seen to be too vague to violate France’s law forbidding it.

On Jan. 24, a French court ordered Twitter to divulge details of French users who made similar comments.

The post containing “Master Yoda” received 1,413 “likes” on Facebook. Booba has sold more than 1 million albums in France.

No, Adam Yauch wasn’t a yeshiva boy, but we can still claim him

As a student at an all-girls day school in Brooklyn, the first thing I learned about the Beastie Boys turned out to be untrue.
According to a yeshiva urban legend, two of the founding members of the Beastie Boys had attended The Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy in upper Manhattan. Some MTA students even claimed to know where the hip-hop pioneers had tagged the school with their handles.

This was before every claim could be verified or disproved with a Google search.

After seeing a photograph of the trio in a music magazine in the mid-1990s, I decided I could believe that the three nerdy-looking, funny white Jewish guys in fact had been nerdy, rebellious yeshiva students.

Of course they never attended an Orthodox educational institution. Still, despite denials from the Beastie Boys, the rumor persisted. Yeshiva students continued to project themselves onto this seminal hip-hop act for years, even after Drake came along and started talking about his bar mitzvah.

When Adam “MCA” Yauch, one of those alleged yeshiva students, died last Friday at 47 following a three-year battle with cancer, there was an outpouring of grief and condolences from fans and some of the biggest names in hip hop.

He and the Beastie Boys helped put hip hop on the map in 1986 with their debut, “Licensed to Ill,” the first rap album to hit the top of Billboard’s album charts.

The album yielded several classic singles such as “Fight for Your Right to Party” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” It also landed the Boys on the cover of Rolling Stone—the magazine had been notoriously unwilling to cover rap, a nascent and increasingly significant art form—with the headline “Three Idiots Make a Masterpiece.”

“The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs,” Rick Rubin, who produced “Licensed to Ill,” said in an interview with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn’t been up to that time.”

Of course, this sort of attention turned the Jewish bohemians into targets for those who viewed their success through the prism of white privilege and racism. Yet, and this is much to the group’s credit, the criticisms eventually dissipated.

“We don’t hear the word ‘Elvis’ uttered in the same breath as ‘Beastie Boys,’ ” Dan Charnas, author of “The Big Payback,” wrote in a tribute to Yauch published in Spin. “The integrity of Yauch and his peers had a lot to do with it.”

Yauch and the Beasties came of age, creatively speaking, in the downtown bohemia of Manhattan in the early ’80s where punk rockers (as the Beasties had formerly been) mixed freely with uptown emcees and DJs. The racial lines in this scene and early hip hop were crossed in surprising ways.

The Beastie Boys’ own career reflects that. They were introduced to black audiences by the biggest rap act of the day, Run DMC.

In turn the Beasties, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, helped launch the career of Public Enemy, which opened for the mega-successful Boys on tour.

The Beastie Boys paid homage to their myriad influences in the pages of the now-defunct Grand Royal magazine, which started in the early ’90s and reflected their tastes, from movies to artists such as Lee “Scratch” Perry, a name familiar to those inside the hip-hop scene as his work is often sampled in tracks.

By exposing a wider audience to these important figures in the culture’s history, the Beasties Boys helped give credit where it was due and properly situated themselves within the hip-hop tradition.

“The Beastie Boys took responsibility for being grown-up white people without boring everyone with long rationalizations about how down they were,” Joseph Schloss, author of “Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip Hop,” wrote nearly a decade ago in “The Hip-Hop Album Guide.”

Except when they actually did apologize for some of their earlier homophobic and misogynist lyrics. This wasn’t a Rush Limbaugh-style mea culpa. They didn’t apologize that women and gays took offense at what they said—the “I’m sorry you took umbrage at that really awful thing I said”—thereby putting the onus on the targets of the hateful comments for even reacting to them.

Rather Yauch and the Beasties expressed true, sincere regret. Yauch famously rapped, “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through.” This from a group that had once performed onstage alongside caged female dancers and a hydraulic-powered penis.

And the Boys did more than give lip service to these feminist impulses; they acted on them. The group famously asked Prodigy not to perform the song “Smack My Bitch Up” at the Reading Festival.

When the Beasties were criticized for this seemingly hypocritical stance, Yauch defended the move, saying they had begun changing the words when they performed old songs that had contained misogynistic lyrics. This was just one example of how deeply intertwined the Beastie Boys’ artistic and social progression was.

Yauch created a successful template of how to evolve, not only as an artist but also as a human being.

In addition to directing some of the most visually arresting and retro-inflected Beastie Boys music videos under the alias Nathaniel Hornblower, he also created Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company that cultivated and released several critical hits, including the Oscar-nominated “The Message” and “Exist Through the Gift Shop.” 

A practicing Buddhist, Yauch also founded the Milarepa Foundation, which raised money and awareness through the Tibetan Freedom Concerts.

While this doesn’t exactly sound like the work of your average yeshiva student, I have no problem with future generations of Orthodox boys pretending that the Beastie Boys had been their own.

Yeshiva boys couldn’t do much better than Adam Yauch as a role model.

Dvora Meyers is the author of the ebook “Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess,” a memoir essay collection about Orthodox Judaism and gymnastics.

On Matisyahu’s beard

On Tuesday, December 13, Chassidic reggae-star Matisyahu Tweeted:

This morning I posted a photo of myself on Twitter. No more Chassidic reggae superstar.  Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice.…. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission…. Matisyahu.

In a subsequent interview with WNYC radio, the Grammy-nominated singer explained that he remains observant but underwent a transformation.  He kept the long beard, he said, out of fear that removing it would result in being denied God’s mercy.  He overcame that fear and no longer needs facial hair.

As one who appreciated his music and loved his message, the tweet gave me pause.  It brought me back to the day that I, too, shaved my beard.

I grew a beard when I was 21 years old.  A fledgling rabbinical student with a pronounced speech impediment, I had just finished the most depressing year of my life.  The intensive speech therapy program I had engaged in was failing, and the yeshiva I attended beheld a culture I could not embrace. It was time for a new beginning.  I was going to Israel to attend the renowned and revered Mir Yeshiva.  Throughout my darkest moments, I craved – and felt – a special relationship with God.  But within that relationship it was time for renewal, time for a new tempo to the song of my life.   

My flight to Israel was scheduled for late summer.  “The Three Weeks,” a time when Orthodox Jewish men don’t shave to express mourning for the destruction of the Temples, fell a few weeks before my departure.  Already adorned by red stubble, I chose to not shave and let it grow into a red beard.

Life is replete with symbols.  The clothes we wear, the company we keep and the haircut we sport, express the person we are and the person we want to be.  Teenage boys wearing hair combed towards their forehead appreciate this, as do scientists sporting unkempt hair and shaggy sweaters.  I did, too.  The beard – the male expression of maturity – defined my commitment, devotion and determination to connect with God anew.  It was a new look and a new beginning. 

I kept the beard for two years, throughout my stay in Israel.  By then I felt much better inside and outside.  I met people who were both good and Godly, my studies were progressing, and I found friends who understood me and rabbis whom I understood.  Just before I came home to the States, the Remington came out and the beard came off. 

I kept the beard off for three years.  Then I met my soul-mate, married and chose a career in the field of Jewish education and outreach.  One month after our wedding was sefira, when Jewish men don’t shave to commemorate the loss of the academy of Rabbi Akiva to plague, in 150 CE.  The beard grew, again.  And it has been on ever since.

I feel comfortable with it because it was added as an expression of Jewish pride, not as a response to weakness.  Judaism is my life.  And I don’t intend to remove it.

Matisyahu remains an observant Jew and, even more, a keeper of the beard does not make one a keeper of the faith.  But it would be remiss to ignore that it was the beard which made Matisyahu a sensation.  The removal of the beard occurred because Matisyahu no longer saw in it the symbolism that the media and his fans saw in it.  A clean shaven white guy doing reggae, no matter how clever and talented, would not have made it to the Jimmy Kimmel Show.

The world knows that the Orthodox Jew speaks to mankind.  The wise, sagacious rabbi envisioned by our greatest admirers is bearded, as is the evil world-dominating caricature concocted by Anti-Semites.

What does the Orthodox Jew say to the world?  He says that God is infinitely engaged in creation.  He says that God calls mankind to self regulation, to commit to absolute values, to break the idol worship of self and to build and dignify the institution of other.  He speaks of the deep richness of the Godly and the fleeting pleasures of the worldly, imploring mankind to choose spiritual fine wine over material candy. He says that the battle between good and evil exists and persists at all times, in the world and within our lives.  And he proclaims that ultimately our good deeds will usher in a Messianic era when all mankind will recognize God as Creator and loving Father. 

Orthodox Jews know the message, yet, it was the medium of Matisyahu that brought it to the masses.  I will miss Matisyahu’s beard.  And pray that others – with beards – learn to express, as Matisyahu did, a craving for the Divine, absolute values that are sublime, to help turn the tide for a great nation in moral decline.

The author of two books, Yaakov Rosenblatt “tends the flock,” literally and figuratively, as CEO of A.D. Rosenblatt Kosher Meats, LLC and a rabbi at NCSY – Southwest region

Jewish teen rapper’s album tops Billboard chart [VIDEO]

A Jewish teen rapper has had his first album debuted at the top of Billboard 200 chart.

“Blue Slide Park,” the first album-length effort from Mac Miller, a 19-year-olf Pittsburgh-reared emcee, sold 144,000 copies in its first week.

The rapper, whose real name is Malcolm McCormick, has a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. He has a prominent “chai” tattoo in Hebrew letters on his upper arm.

The rapper’s feat is all the more remarkable since his album is independently distributed by Rostrum Records. The last and only indie album release to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard chart was Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food” back in 1995.

Miller’s meteoric rise is in large part due to his adroit use of social-networking media. He has more than a million “likes” on Facebook and nearly the same number of followers on Twitter.

Miller’s most popular song on YouTube is “Donald Trump,” and the “Celebrity Apprentice” host has signaled his approval of the track. Another big hit for Miller is “Nikes on my Feet,” which is an ode to his footwear in the same tradition as Run DMC’s “My Adidas.”

Gangsta rapper Shyne, now an Orthodox Jew, plans comeback

It was early on during his difficult, isolated years in prison that the former gangsta rapper known as Shyne decided to formally take on the laws of Judaism as his own.

Shyne, who legally changed his name in prison from Jamaal Barrows to Moses Levi—Moses is one of his favorite biblical heroes, and Levi is for the Levites who were musicians during Temple times—remembers the initial skepticism he encountered from prison rabbis at New York’s Rikers Island, where he was first incarcerated, and the other prison rabbis that would follow.

“In prison culture, everyone is trying to make a scam, everyone is a con artist, so who is this dark-skinned guy they wondered? Does he just want the Jewish food?” asks Levi, now cloaked in the black garb of a Chasidic Jew and living in Jerusalem.

“A guy with payes? Maybe they might believe him,” he tells JTA, laughing.

Levi, 32, a former protegee of the hip-hop mogul Sean Combs (aka P Diddy), found himself drawn to Judaism ever since hearing Old Testament stories from his grandmother as a boy. He was with Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, the singer and movie star, the night of a 1999 shooting at a Manhattan nightclub that left three injured and resulted in a trial that became a media circus.

Combs was acquitted, but Levi was found guilty of opening fire in the nightclub. In 2001 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. After serving nearly nine years he was released last year.

Levi credits Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, one of his attorneys, with helping him gain access in prison to prayer books and other religious items like a tallit and tefillin.

Now, as he walks through the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City on his way to the Western Wall, he clutches a worn prayer book whose maroon leather cover was torn off by prison officials for security purposes.

Adhering to an Orthodox approach to Judaism made the most sense to him, said Levi, who is studying with several haredi Orthodox rabbis from some of the most stringent yeshivas in Jerusalem. A few months ago, Levi said, he underwent a type of conversion called a “giyur l’chumra”—a conversion usually for those who likely are Jewish but undergo conversion “just to be on the safe side.”

“I’m looking for a connection to Hashem,” Levi says, using the Hebrew name for God. “I am not trying to weaken it. I want to know what is done, then I can decide if I’m up to it. What did Moses do? What do the sages say to do?”

Levi feels like he’s returning to the fold. His days are spent in study and prayer. Reminders of his newly acquired Jewish education come out in his rapid fire, Brooklyn-accented speech smattered with Hebrew words and Talmudic and biblical references.

Levi is an anomaly in more ways than one.

His father is a prosperous lawyer who currently is the prime minister of Belize, in Central America. When Levi was a child, his mother took him from Belize to the United States. They settled in New York, where she worked as a house cleaner to support them.

But Levi soon was enamored with life on the streets, becoming a gang member. He was in and out of trouble, and at the age of 13 he was sent away to a juvenile center. By 15 he had been shot.

These days, after spending time in prison, adopting Judaism and moving to Israel for a few months, Levi is talking about a musical comeback.

He plans to release two albums this spring that are part of a joint venture with Def Jam Records, the major hip-hop label. Gone is some of the harsher and misogynist language of his previous two albums, one of which came out while he was in jail. While not explicitly religious, the lyrics do have a spiritual bent.

In Jerusalem, where Levi says he plans to stay for the next few months, he appears nonplussed by the second glances he attracts. But as a black man in the clothes of a haredi—complete with long black wool coat, fedora, knickers and black ribbed socks—Levi indeed stands out.

At the Western Wall plaza he encounters a group of young, religious Ethiopian Israelis. Levi’s great-grandmother was Ethiopian, and he thinks she may have been Jewish. Exploring his possible Ethiopian Jewish heritage intrigues him.

Levi plans to travel to Ethiopia in the spring, and says he’d like to help fund a yeshiva for Ethiopian immigrants in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

“The Israelites won’t be whole and Messiah won’t come until all the tribes are connected to Hashem,” Levi says, referring to the Ethiopian Jews as a lost tribe—an originally Jewish community cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for generations.

Levi finishes his evening prayers at the Western Wall before paying a visit to the protest tent next to the prime minister’s residence that calls for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for more than four years.

Noam Shalit, the captured soldier’s father, is in the tent, and Levi is anxious to speak with him.

“I know what it’s like to suffer and not be with your family, and heaven knows what kind of pain and torture they are doing to him,” Levi says after the two shake hands and sit down. He adds, “All we can do is pray.”

“We need more than prayers,” a polite but terse Noam Shalit replies.

From the Shalit tent, Levi heads out into a chilly Jerusalem night to meet with one of the rabbis with whom he studies regularly.

Every day, he says, the tenets of Judaism help him become closer to the kind of person he strives to be.

“The bottom line is not to be a Chasid,” he says. “Some people can dress up and look the part, but sometimes they don’t behave that way and the person you never expect turns out to be the mensch. Right?”

Matisyahu’s ‘Miracle’ Chanukah song [VIDEO]

A message from Matisyahu from

MUSIC: ‘That Yemenite Kid’ Diwon makes a mix tape — in Yiddish

NEW YORK (JTA) — Courtesy of Diwon, the artist formerly known as DJ Handler and otherwise known as the executive director of Modular Moods and, comes this fresh mix of pop, hip-hop, electronica and . . . Yiddish?

We spoke to “That Yemenite Kid” and asked him what’s up with this unusual release.

JTA: As an artist and producer you’ve focused on highlighting Sephardic and Yemenite Jewish music as an alternative to what some see as the Ashkenazic domination of the Jewish cultural scene. With that in mind, what’s a nice Yemenite kid like you doing in a Yiddishe place like this?

Diwon: I’m half-Yemenite. My other side is Ashkenaz. That is the side that came out here. Don’t forget, I started a klezmer punk band in college called Juez. So this really isn’t too far out for me. I think just because of the recent change of my artist name from DJ Handler to Diwon and some of the press around the music, now I’m seen as very Yemenite and the past is sort of washed over. I’m definitely more passionate about the Yemenite music I’m making because I feel that there has already been a big Yiddish and klezmer music revival.

At the same time, I don’t know of any Yiddish mixtapes that have ever been made — you know, Yiddish through the eyes of a street mixtape DJ. It was a challenge to take the source material flip it over my own beats and remixes and then throw in some of my friends who are fusing Yiddish with electronic music and what not. Plus that Andrew sisters “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” is so hot. I DJ it in clubs all the time. That in itself was almost reason enough to create this mixtape.

JTA: I notice you have some Hebrew language stuff in there as well. That’s going to make the Yiddishists angry . . .

Diwon: Ha! I don’t know. I guess some controversy is good.

There is a lot of great classic Yiddish music out there that, beyond revivals from Golem and Socalled, most young Jews today are completely unfamiliar with.

Click for streaming audio

JTA: Do you see any potential for the reinvigoration of Yiddish music as anything more than a novelty for this generation?

Diwon: I could see why people would say that Socalled is a novelty, but you could argue the music isn’t a novelty because he grew up listening to Yiddish records and this is how he makes Yiddish music — as opposed to say, an artist who put one Yiddish thing on their non-Yiddish album, as a novelty.

It’s a tough question to answer since most artists fuse different elements and genres and influences into their compositions. I don’t think that it’s novelty if an artist fuses their tradition into their music if it’s done in a sincere way and not with a smirk.

JTA: But what about for the consumer? So let’s say your doing Yemenite music isn’t a novelty, it’s an expression of your identity, but for the average music consumer, it’s a novelty. Take Matisyahu for example. Did non-Jews buy his album because he’s a great reggae artist, or because he’s an amusement?

Diwon: I think it depends on the consumer. One who isn’t that familiar with the tradition might buy it as novelty. But someone who knows the music and likes Yiddish or Yemenite music will buy it to expand their collection and for them its not necessarily a novelty purchase.

I know non-Jews who bought Matisyahu’s record because they like reggae. But then there are tons that probably bought it off the hype that was fueled by the novelty of it all. But I don’t think any of that matters. If he had put out one record and then went to making regular, non-Jewish reggae, I think it would be different. People would say “what a fake” and “what kind of marketing stunt is this?” But the fact is this is his true expression. He tours the world playing it and he is onto his third record, making it. It’s obvious that he doesn’t view it as a novelty. And the fact that he is still successful at it shows that it’s definitely more than a novelty. That and maybe the fact that he doesn’t wear a suit and a black hat anymore.

JTA: How’s the Jewish music scene holding up in light of the current economic downturn? Is your label, Modular Moods, surviving, thriving, dying?

Diwon: Well stateside we’re still alright. It’s a bit harder when I tour internationally, but no matter what I’m still going to grind and get as much good music out there as possible. If only to cheer up the people who are down due to the economy.

JTA: Well, giving away free music helps!

Diwon: Yeah, well music is basically free nowadays anyway, so why try and front? I feel like I give 75% of my music out for free and use the other 25% to fund it all and survive.

JTA: So what can we expect from Modular Moods in the coming months?

Diwon: Don’t miss the Sephardic Music Festival this Chanukah in NYC, the Shemspeed 40 Days 40 Nights Tour of college campuses in February, and a slew of new songs and albums unlike anything people have ever heard. We ain’t gonna stop now.

Documentary goes behind the music video with Chutzpah

Tor Hyams was startled to discover that his Jewish rap group, Chutzpah, had become the subject of an arty short documentary — Juliet Landau’s “Take Flight” — which will be the centerpiece of The Hollywood Hill’s inaugural BigBrainBoy Mobile Media Summit that takes place on Sept. 12 and 13.

“But at the same time I also wasn’t so surprised, because there’s something very strange about our group: We call it ‘The Legend of Chutzpah,'” he said. “Wacky things have always happened to us that we never planned — and that we didn’t particularly try for because Chutzpah is a pet project, not the main part of our lives.”

Hyams, a veteran TV composer and record producer, was working with artists such as Lisa Loeb and Perry Farrell when he began writing Jewish rap on a lark back in 2005. Within months, Chutzpah had released “Eponymous,” its debut CD; a DVD “hip-hop-u-mentary,” featuring celebrity cameos by Gary Oldman and Sharon Osbourne, which screened at the HBO and Aspen comedy festivals; a music video, “Chanukah’s Da Bomb” which played on MTV, and write-ups in myriad publications (The New York Times calls it “a cross between Eminem and Woody Allen”). Now a second album, “Hip Hop Fantasy,” is slated for release Nov. 11, along with a new music video, for the song, “Red Rover,” directed by Oldman. And that video is the subject of “Take Flight,” which is already earning buzz in media circles.

Hyams, who is originally from Larchmont, N.Y., said he was “working on five projects at once” several years ago when a friend asked him to help write a Yiddish rap song.

‘Take Flight’ trailer

“I absolutely loved it,” he recalled. “It was like I was possessed, and I started creating hip-hop beats and writing lyrics.”

Hyams enlisted the help of his cousin, David Scharff, and together they “busted out five tracks” in just two weeks in the producer’s Los Feliz studio. The songs included “Old School Jew” (“I was going really ‘old school,'” he says of the rap term. “We’re talking an abridged history of the Hebrew bible.”) and “In the Shtetl,” a riff on “In the Ghetto” by Oakland rapper Too Short.

“My big idea for the CD was, ‘Let’s give this to our families for Chanukah,'” Hyams said. “I never thought we’d get a record deal, because I figured ‘This is stupid and Jewish and no one cares except us.'”

Later, during a tense business meeting, Hyams joked that if the deal at hand didn’t work out, the executives could sign his Jewish rap group. “Everybody laughed,” Hyams recalled, “but when I got home, there was an e-mail saying that if I was serious, I should contact this new label, the Jewish Music Group [JMG], which was looking for talent.” Shout Factory’s JMG signed the group on a handshake.

When the company ordered a music video, Hyams played lead rapper “Master Tav,” Scharff was the Jewish rastafarian philosopher and an actor friend, Jerran Friedman, portrayed the deranged MC Meshugenah, who often appeared in a straightjacket.

2006 music video ‘Ask the rabbi’ — note straightjacket

Many reviewers subsequently lauded Chutzpah, which billed itself as “the first Jewish hip-hop supergroup” (never mind Matisyahu or 2 Live Jews). But some described it as a novelty act — a label that chagrined Hyams. He said he intends his music to be serious and that he is inspired by rap greats such as LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg.

Chutzpah’s second CD, he added, is a “concept album” in which each song describes the saga of how the bandmates have unexpectedly lived out their hip-hop fantasies. Oldman — who has been Hyams’ friend since their children attended the same preschool — raps on one of the songs and asked to direct Chutzpah’s new music video. “Gary thinks being Jewish is cool for some reason,” Hyams said. “He’d always say, ‘You know, Tor, I could be Jewish; I could change my name to Larry Goldman” (which is how he is credited on the new music video).

The video is shot entirely on Nokia cell- phones and features the song, “Red Rover,” a “battle rap” challenging Chutzpah’s critics (including Matisyahu, who reportedly told Hyams that Chutzpah disgraces Judaism.) It depicts the group members wearing Speedos and Jewish bling while playing the children’s game red rover with bikini-clad babes. Hyams dons a clown nose to dis Matisyahu, and MC Meshugenah attempts to snorkel in a wading pool emblazoned with a Star of David.

While Oldman was shooting Hyams et al, Landau (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”) was filming a “making of” documentary about the video — which turned into a lyrical film about Oldman’s creative process. “I could see Gary coming up with ideas and carrying them out with great precision,” Landau said. “I wanted viewers to feel like they were inside his head.”

For Hyams, watching the film brought one more surprise.

“I thought the movie would be kind of dumb, because we’re kind of dumb,” he said. “But it was so moving, I actually got a little choked up.”

Juliet Landau and “Red Rover” director of photography Deverill Weekes will conduct a Q & A after “Take Flight” screenings, on Sept. 13.

Girlz in the hood

‘Miriam’ and ‘Shoshana’ live in the Pico-Robertson area. They’re seniors at a religious girls’ school, they study Torah, dress modestly and keep the Sabbath.

But Miriam and Shoshana are not your ordinary Orthodox girls. They rap. They use foul language. They fantasize about professional wrestler Bill Goldberg. And they head up a dreidel-rolling gang.

The two faux frumsters are the comedic creations of Kara Luiz and Deena Adar.

The hosts of an online radio show “The Love Drop,” on

MUSIC VIDEO: Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’ — ‘Tonight’s the Night’

Two Israeli cliques— cool kids and Yeshiva students—somehow manage to ‘just get along’ in this hiphop music video from rappers Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’—‘Tonight’s the Night’

I Ate the Whole Thing!

I Ate the Whole Thing!

Rap music and matzah balls? Hey, Jews can rap. Just ask the group, Chutzpah, which showed up in full rapping gear for the weighing of the 26-pound-matzah ball at Canter’s Deli last week to celebrate the DVD release of “When Do We Eat?” The weights and measures officials arrived in uniform to record the official weight to send to Guinness, and guests and regulars ogled the giant treat. Not exactly like grandma used to make, but in this case bigger was better.

The matzah ball weigh-in was all part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the legendary L.A. deli, with Assemblyman Paul Koretz doing the honors of presenting an official proclamation from the state of California. Alan Canter, representing the second generation of family ownership, accepted the honor; he has spent practically his whole life keeping Canter’s one of Southern California’s most beloved and long-lasting dining establishments.

Koretz saluted the restaurant for its many years of great food, legendary service and extensive community involvement.

Two longstanding employees, head waitress Jean Cocchiaro and manager and main sandwich man George Karkabasis — considered by many to be the fastest and best sandwichmaker in town — were also surprised with certificates of commendation.

Together, they have worked at Canter’s for more than 100 years! Jacqueline, Gary and Mark Canter were on hand to celebrate their family’s famous fressing history with Dad, Alan.

The Canters reminisced about old times with Koretz, noting the table where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sat on Friday nights, the visits from sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron, the joking of regulars like Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett.

Solidarity Brother

Responding to the crisis in Israel, Rabbi Eli Herscher, senior rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the synagogue’s director of education, Metuka Benjamin, quickly organized a solidarity mission to Israel. The group of 21 congregants met with high-level military and political leadership for a crisis update, visited military bases directly involved in the conflict and experienced first-hand the mobilization of essential services for Israelis in the north who were directly affected by this war. Herscher and Benjamin led the temple’s leadership as they brought gifts to wounded soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. They also visited a summer camp organized by the Joint Distribution Committee to serve children affected by the bombings in the Haifa area and met with handicapped Israelis who were evacuated to hotels in the center of the country. The temple has scheduled three other Israel missions for the coming year and raised $1.4 million dollars toward meeting Israel’s immediate crisis needs.

Zev on the Mount

Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries named Bob Zev director of marketing. Zev, who has a bachelor’s from CSUN and an MBA from USC, has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience serving as the vice president of marketing for a financial institution.

Zev grew up in Los Angeles, became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy, Hebrew High School, Camp Ramah and spent a year in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

‘Lost’ in the Art World

Even though Jack Bender didn’t win the best director Emmy Sunday night for his work on “Lost,” he was very much a winner at the premiere of his one-man show, “Found” at the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills on Aug. 26. The exhibition was a “lost and found” of sorts for Bender’s friends, colleagues and admirers, who all converged onto the swanky gallery floors to view his colorful, explosive mixed-media paintings and, of course, to socialize.

The paintings could hardly be viewed through the talkative crowd of well-dressed art lovers, gallery clients and Bender’s circle of friends, who were sipping vodka-based cocktails named in Bender’s honor, such as “On a Bender” and “Castaway.” Across from “The Hatch Painting,” made famous for its appearance in “Lost,” students from View Park Prep in South L.A. played smooth jazz for the guests.

Among the celebs present to gush over Bender’s artwork were actress Blythe Danner; Jacqueline Bisset; J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost”; Carlton Cuse, “Lost” producer; “Lost” star Evangeline Lily (who plays Kate) and “Sex and the City” actor Evan Handler (Charlotte’s Jewish husband).

“I don’t know how he did all of these,” Danner enthused to Entertainment Tonight, at the gallery.

Works exhibited are those he completed during breaks from filming “Lost” in Hawaii these past two years. Bender has been painting ever since he was a teen.Lilly, however, wasn’t surprised by Bender’s creative output on display: “It’s an expression and extension of himself,” she told The Journal in the gallery’s backroom, where Bender shared exhibition space with Chagall and Picasso. “He’s very spontaneous as a director and doesn’t like to premeditate things.”Bender summed up the evening: “It’s wonderful to be in this extraordinary environment. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long ride.”

— Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah’s New President Honored

Brindell Gottlieb recently opened her home to celebrate Nancy Mishkin as the new president of Beit T’Shuvah. Mishkin’s two-year term with the Westside congregation and rehabilitation center began in July. The annual Steps to Recovery Gala on Jan. 28, 2007, honoring Ron Herman, Dr. Susan Krevoy and Diane Licht, will be the first event highlighting Mishkin’s presidency. Beit T’Shuvah’s mission is to insure the physical, emotional and spiritual health of individuals and families within a supportive Jewish community. For more information, call (310) 204-5200, ext. 211.

The Sabbath Rap

The service begins with “Shalom Aleichem,” but there’s a twist: Injected between the traditional verses are some fast-talking, spoken-word interludes with messages for those entering into the ritual. “So recline, right after you drink this wine/ See this time is a gift from the mind of the Divine.”

Welcome to Hip Hop Shabbat.

Created to help make Shabbat services more appealing to a generation that would rather spend Friday night at a free-styling rap concert, the concept mixes expectations with surprises. It was conceived by a group of friends who grew up in Oakland and call themselves the Original Jewish Gangsters (OJG), a name they took on as a minority group of white Jewish kids attending a largely black public school.

“Hip-hop adds another element to the service — the power of the word — which is a very big thing in Judaism,” said Judah Ritterman, 25, who manages the OJGs, and also sings and raps for them. “Our lyrics add another layer of meaning to the prayer, so that [people] can understand it better.”

For Ritterman, hip-hop is a natural partner to traditional Judaism.

“There is an intimate connection between the Jewish and Black communities in this country, going back to New York where there were a lot of immigrant groups in general, but more specifically in my parents’ generation, when they were all fighting for civil causes,” he said. “But the history of hip-hop/rap has been disproportionately influenced by Jewish people, like the Beastie Boys and the Wu Tang Clan.”

Currently Ritterman and the other OJGs — Elana Jagoda and Jonathan Gutstadt –have been performing their service in Reform congregations, which have been the most accepting of the use of electronic music on Shabbat. But they are starting to get interest from Conservative synagogues as well, and they hope that eventually Hip Hop Shabbat will reach a broad segment of the community.

“Our goal is to create an experience that is as celebratory as possible, because Shabbat is about getting people out of their day-to-day mindset and breaking into a new space for the weekend,” Ritterman said. “We really want to create that.”

Hip Hop Shabbat will performed at the Friday night services of Temple Isaiah at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27; Sinai Temple on Feb. 10; and Stephen S. Wise Temple at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17. For more information, visit

Spectator – It’s Hip to Be Chutzpah

When you think of hip-hop or rap, you don’t generally think of jowl-necked septuagenarians or skinny, psyched-out white guys rapping about the tsuris their mother gives them, but then again, you don’t generally think of Jews either.

Enter Chutzpah, or the new “Jewish Hip-Hop Supergroup,” as they would have it.

People say “that we could perform in front of a black urban audience and they would be into the beat and into the rap,” said Jewdah (a.k.a. David Scharff, Chutzpah’s manager). “Of course, it was a couple of Jewish guys saying that.”

That kind of irreverence makes Chutzpah a hybrid entertainment experience. On the one hand, the raps they sing — like “Chanukah’s Da Bomb” or “Tsuris” — sustain a head-throbbing beat that might hold its own in the innercity. On the other hand, the group, which consists of Master Tav (a.k.a. Tor Hyams), Dr. Dreck (a.k.a. George Segal) and MC Meshugenah (real name unknown) keeps trying to make you laugh and to get you in on the joke.

In “Chutzpah, This Is, The Official Hip-Hop-Umentary,” Chutzpah’s debut DVD, the group explains its origins in a mock-serious “This Is Spinal Tap” fashion. The group officially started when Master Tav called up Dr. Dreck, who was then moonlighting as George Segal, and left a message inviting him to join a Jewish rap group. Dreck wanted to delete the message, but instead pressed a button that called Tav back, and Chutzpah was born.

Dreck, who wears heavy gold chains and looks just a bit too old to be doing the arm-bouncing motions so favored by rappers, was rumored to have invented scratching on a Victrola in 1948. He also claims that Dr. Dre stole his name and dropped the “CK.”

In addition to the DVD, Chutzpah also has a CD “Chutzpah, Eponymous.” The group claims that its music will cross ethnic boundaries, bring Jewish culture to the masses, and make people say, as Tav put it: “I wish I was a cool Jewish rapper.”

For information on Chutzpah, visit

Masi’s Grays

The Borscht Belt has gone way downtown as a crop of young hip-hoppers redefines the shape of Jewish comedy.

Welcome to the next generation of Jewish humor, where beats become borscht in the hip-hop Cuisinart.Young Jews have found rap’s limitless vocabulary ideal for taking a fresh look at old stereotypes.The patriarchs of Jewish hip hop, of course, are the Beastie Boys, three guys from New York City who retooled their band from punk to hip hop and became one of the most popular rap groups ever. Their 1986 album “Licensed to Ill” set a standard of hip-hop as comedy.

Since then, other Jewish rappers such as Staten Island songwriter Remedy (Ross Filler), the groups Blood of Abraham and NonFiction and performance artist Danny Hoch became more sensitive to the hip-hop hardcore, where “Blackness” lies at the center of the aesthetic. They got more Jewish – Remedy eulogized victims of the Holocaust on “Never Again” and Blood of Abraham tackled race relations on “Niggaz & Jewz” – but they also got more serious, for instance:

MC Paul Barman, the Woody Allen of the hip-hop nation. “My sex life is pathetic. That’s why I fantasize on four out of my five songs,” Barman intones in the introduction of his debut EP “It’s Very Stimulating” (Wordsound). Like Allen at his best, Barman, 25, offsets his tales of intricately rhymed sexual misadventure with his intellectual prowess.

Concetta Kirschner, aka Princess Superstar, a downtown diva for the trendy and ambitious, is celebrating the release of her third CD, “Last of the Great 20th Century Composers,” and the first on her self-owned independent label Corrupt Conglomerate. The new meticulously produced disc is spare with beats but overripe with libido.

L.A.-based duo MOT (Members of the Tribe) expertly ape hip-hop tropes.Proudly derivative, MOT views rap music and culture through a Borscht Belt lens. On tunes such as “Havana Nagilla” and “Kosher Nostra,” MOT achieves a hilarious, almost perfect synthesis of Jewish and gangsta stereotypes.

“The Bomb-itty of Errors,” a hit Off-Broadway musical, drew rave reviews and rabid audiences. The five talented actors, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum, Erik Weiner and DJ Jeffrey Qaiyum, fresh out of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, created an exceedingly clever 90-minute romp through Shake-spearean ribaldry and hip-hop history. Only in New York would a modernized version of “A Comedy of Errors” rhyme “crowbar” with “shofar.”

This article appears courtesy of The Jewish Week. A longer version is available at

Jewish Humor’s New New Rap

The Borscht Belt has gone way downtown as a crop of young hip-hoppers redefines the shape of Jewish comedy.

Welcome to the next generation of Jewish humor, where beats become borscht in the hip-hop Cuisinart. Young Jews have found rap’s limitless vocabulary ideal for taking a fresh look at old stereotypes.The patriarchs of Jewish hip hop, of course, are the Beastie Boys, three guys from New York City who retooled their band from punk to hip hop and became one of the most popular rap groups ever. Their 1986 album “Licensed to Ill” set a standard of hip-hop as comedy.

Since then, other Jewish rappers such as Staten Island songwriter Remedy (Ross Filler), the groups Blood of Abraham and NonFiction and performance artist Danny Hoch became more sensitive to the hip-hop hardcore, where “Blackness” lies at the center of the aesthetic. They got more Jewish – Remedy eulogized victims of the Holocaust on “Never Again” and Blood of Abraham tackled race relations on “Niggaz & Jewz” – but they also got more serious, for instance:

  • MC Paul Barman, the Woody Allen of the hip-hop nation. “My sex life is pathetic. That’s why I fantasize on four out of my five songs,” Barman intones in the introduction of his debut EP “It’s Very Stimulating” (Wordsound). Like Allen at his best, Barman, 25, offsets his tales of intricately rhymed sexual misadventure with his intellectual prowess.

  • Concetta Kirschner, aka Princess Superstar, a downtown diva for the trendy and ambitious, is celebrating the release of her third CD, “Last of the Great 20th Century Composers,” and the first on her self-owned independent label Corrupt Conglomerate. The new meticulously produced disc is spare with beats but overripe with libido.

  • L.A.-based duo MOT (Members of the Tribe) expertly ape hip-hop tropes.Proudly derivative, MOT views rap music and culture through a Borscht Belt lens. On tunes such as “Havana Nagilla” and “Kosher Nostra,” MOT achieves a hilarious, almost perfect synthesis of Jewish and gangsta stereotypes.

  • “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” a hit Off-Broadway musical, drew rave reviews and rabid audiences. The five talented actors, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum, Erik Weiner and DJ Jeffrey Qaiyum, fresh out of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, created an exceedingly clever 90-minute romp through Shake-spearean ribaldry and hip-hop history. Only in New York would a modernized version of “A Comedy of Errors” rhyme “crowbar” with “shofar.”

This article appears courtesy of The Jewish Week. A longer version is available at